Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Okinawa Diet Plan: Discover how the world's longest lived and healthiest people eat to stay slim by Brad Willcox MD

This is the book based upon the 25 year landmark scientific study that has proved that caloric restriction in humans does increase longevity. Unfortunately the results are not heartening for most of us. We need to learn to eat a lot less than we do today. That means 25% to 40% less per day. Bon appetit!

"Okinawa, in fact, has the highest concentration of centenarians worldwide... including the world's oldest living citizen [116 at the time of printing]." p2

"When you consider that the US counts only 10 centenarians per 100,000, while Okinawa has 40, you begin to see the significance of these numbers." p2

"American men gain an average of 22 lbs between the ages of 20 & 60 ...women average a 12 lb gain... Okinawans actually lost about 5 lbs during those years, consistent with the fact that older people require fewer calories." p7

"The science behind caloric restriction and its ability to help keep the body slim, healthy, and youthful is fascinating. The most plausible theoretical mechanism is a reduction in the production of cell damaging free radicals, which are generated primarily by metabolizing food for energy - if you eat less food, you generate fewer free radicals. Lower free radical production in turn minimizes potential damage to cellular machinery, such as DNA and mitochondria, which ultimately results in slower aging... From the standpoint of evolutionary theory, it's been proposed that limiting calories kicks into play an 'adaptive response' the same kind animals use when faced by episodic periods of food shortage in the wild. They simply shift their allocation of energy from growth and reproduction to maintenance and repair and thus survive the period of deprivation, becoming even stronger in the process." p9-10 But then exercise should be very harmful to you because of the increased energy burn?

"Americans eat about 2100 calories per day, which amounts to about 2lbs of food. Okinawans... eat only about 1600 calories per day, but their food weighed about 2.5lbs. The Okinawans were in fact eating more food but consuming fewer calories." p13

"Studies from England, Netherlands and the US hav all come to the same conclusion. People eat abotu 2 to 3 lbs of food daily [irregardless of the caloric content]." p14 Our bodies measure volume, and were not capable of counting calories.

"Americans eat an average of 27 teaspoons of sugar per day per person." p15

"Throught most of human history, food was scarce, and it required a great deal of physical energy to acquire it. Those who ate the most calories staved off famine and had the energy to reproduce... As a result, we are hard wired to prefer calorie-rich diets that are high in fat and sugar." p 16

"Fat cells produce estrogen. In fact, after menopause, body fat becomes the major source of a woman's estrogen. That's why estrogen dependent cancers, such as endometrial and breast cancer are more common in obese women." p19

Could it simply be genes? "The difference between traditional Okinawans and Brazillian emigrated Okinawans are truly impressive. Almost every cause of death goes up dramatically. Perhaps more alarming is that they lose 17 years of life expectancy... Genes aren't the answer. The most likely explanation for the health discrepancy is diet." p 22

"A daily energy imbalance [consuming as little as 15 calories more than you burn] would increase your weight by 40 to 50 lbs during your adulthood... If daily caloric intake exceeds output by only 100 calories per day, ... this caloric excess would cause a yearly gain of about 10 lbs." p 26-7

"When your body's energy balance is tuned just below its set point (ie. you eat slightly less than you require), your body has to defend that set point against being underweight. This allows you to tap into those tremendous calorie restriction benefits - slower aging and much lower disease risk... In other words, it fine tunes your body so it will be able to last a very long time under harsh conditions." p27 This is why exercise is critical and beneficial despite the energy burn. Even though exercise increases your caloric intake (exposing you to more harmful antioxidants), if you burn more than you ingest, your body goes into a state where it fights off antioxidation much more effectively, despite the increased energy production.

"One group got 3 meals a day, the other got 17 smaller meals spread through the day. The results showed that the 17 meal group had an impressive decrease in blood sugar (4%), insulin (28%), and LDL (13%)... Bottom line: It's better to have small meals throughout the day than to stuff yourself at 2 or 3 huge meals." p114


Anonymous said...

Hey Ben,

Nice summary. However, I have to point out that your opening comment is erroneous and a common misconception. You state, "We need to learn to eat a lot less than we do today. That means 25% to 40% less per day."

Not true. Okinawans do NOT eat less food than North Americans, they actually consume MORE food but the type of food they consume is much less calorically dense than North American food. Therefore, they end up eating fewer calories overall and it is this natural caloric restriction that is thought to be one of the main factors in their naturally lean builds and increased health and longevity.

For more info, check this out:

Ben Sharma said...

Yes, the volume of food is more, but the calories are not. 'Less food' totally depends on your yardstick. Since most Americans measure consumption in calories rather than volume, it is naturally implicit that we are talking about caloric intake being 25 to 40% less. In any case, the annotations clearly state your point in the posting.

Who are you by the way?